The 29-year-old Napa woman says she is neither a felon nor a vandal and that police listed her as a transient because she refused to give them her address.
"I feel I am 100 percent innocent," Amy Larson said Friday by phone, before telling her own version of the events described in the police report.
Reported police call set events in motion
Larson said she was returning from the , traveling west on First Street with some vegetables in her backpack, when she stopped to chalk some slogans about 9/11 on the First Street bridge and was approached by a police officer who said someone had made a call about the bridge being defaced.
"Then she quickly saw it was sidewalk chalk and said it was totally fine and no problem," continued Larson, who called the encounter "brief" and "positive," adding that the officer "was being nice at that point."
Moments later, as Larson continued west on First Street, the same officer pulled her patrol car over again to ask for her name, address, birth date and other personal information, Larson said.
"I didn't want to give it to her because I didn't do anything wrong," she said.
"I said, 'Am I being detained?'" and was told no, Larson continued.
But when she said she wanted to leave, the officer then told her she was being detained, Larson said.
Another officer arrived and the two took Larson into custody, searching her belongings without permission, she said.
"In my wildest dreams I didn't imagine I was going to go to jail"
Taken to the Larson said "the people there pushed me up against a wall, ripping the earrings out of my ears and asking all sorts of personal medical questions."
Larson didn't want to answer the medical questions, she said, because she didn't understand she was being booked into the jail.
"In my wildest dreams I didn't imagine I was going to go to jail for writing in chalk on the bridge," she said.
"I do have a house" and a job, Larson said, but she declined to give police her address "because I fear repercussions," and was booked as a transient.
Larson was in custody until Wednesday evening, she said. Her fellow inmates, many of them mothers, "were very nice to me and each other," she said. "There was no drama."
Bail was initially set at $10,000, Larson said, but as she has no prior criminal or juvenile record she was released pending arraignment Sept. 26.
"They're calling it a felony, but that is just not true in any sort of a way," she said, arguing that her chalk slogans did not cause $400 worth of damage as required for felony vandalism in California.
Chalk and paint considered the same
The definition of vandalism in the state criminal code does not require that markings be permanent in order to be considered "defacement with graffiti," and the c removes chalk markings as well as painted ones.
posted Aug. 14:
As I was riding through the fairly new Park on the Napa River I noticed those cute inspirational chalk writngs on the paths. I'm sure you've all seen these around town. "Have Respect" "Succeed in life" and so forth.
As I rode a bit further I noticed the Napa City graffiti remover Bob, in his familiar truck. I stopped and chatted with him about tagging ...
He said that he was power spraying the chalk off the paths. I felt somewhat disapointed that the city would wash away those 'harmless' little sayings.
He told me that taggers have been spray painting along the chalk with sometimes gang related tags. If left too long the rival taggers will also leave their thumb print and on and on.
"I swear it was not me"
This week, Larson said the arresting officer told her Tuesday that there had been other chalk graffiti in city parks, that it was costing money to have it cleaned up and that she could be a suspect.
But, she said, "I swear it was not me," adding that she has not chalked her slogans in Napa before.
The slogans she chalked on the bridge included "YOUTUBE WTC BUILDING 7" and "9/11 TRUTH," referring to the 9/11 attacks of 11 years ago that day.
Larson said she is not hiring an attorney and will accept a public defender at her arraignment Sept. 26.
"I feel that this was a really bad abuse of power ... for (the arresting officer) to put somebody in a cage for this," said Larson.
"I was arrested for not showing my papers."
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